Evolutionary dynamics in a varying environment: Continuous versus discrete noise

Ami Taitelbaum, Robert West, Mauro Mobilia, Michael Assaf

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5 Scopus citations


Environmental variations can significantly influence how populations compete for resources, and hence shape their evolution. Here, we study population dynamics subject to a fluctuating environment modeled by a varying carrying capacity changing continuously in time according to either binary random switches, or by being driven by a noise of continuous range. We focus on a prototypical example of two competing strains, one growing slightly slower than the other. By systematically comparing the effect of a binary versus continuously varying environment, we study how different noise statistics (mean, variance) influence the population size and fixation properties. We show that the slow strain fixation probability can be greatly enhanced for a continuously varying environment compared to binary switches, even when the first two moments of the carrying capacity coincide.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL022004
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.


We are grateful to A. M. Rucklidge for useful discussions. A.T. and M.A. acknowledge support from the Israel Science Foundation Grant No. 531/20. M.A. also acknowledges support from the Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. R.W. and M.M. gratefully acknowledge partial support of the EPSRC Ph.D. scholarship EP/N509681/1. M.M. also thankfully acknowledges partial support of the EPSRC Grant No. EP/V014439/1.

FundersFunder number
Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research CouncilEP/N509681/1, EP/V014439/1
Israel Science Foundation531/20


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